Flood traffic.JPG

Traffic backed up on the James Island connector during rush hour on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in Charleston. File/Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Charleston residents who plan on voting in November's municipal election said city leaders should focus their efforts on traffic, flooding and new development, a poll conducted by the Lowcountry Livability PAC has found.

The political action committee was created in 2017 to support politicians with a focus on "climate resilience planning," according to its website.

"Our basic philosophy is the government closest to you is the most important," Hugh Lane, a Lowcountry Livability PAC board member, said Tuesday.  

Lane said the PAC focuses on livability issues, including flooding, traffic, affordable housing and balancing the interests of residents with tourists. The PAC has decided not to endorse a candidate in the upcoming mayoral race and instead is focusing on the City Council races also on the Nov. 5 ballot. 

The PAC paid Change Research to poll registered voters in Charleston. Those included in the poll said there was at least a 50-50 chance they would vote in November. The poll included responses from 370 registered voters. 

The poll found: 

  • 52 percent of voters say they follow Charleston politics and local government "somewhat closely."
  • 42 percent of voters say they have given some thought to the mayoral race.
  • 43 percent of voters said they don't feel any more motivated to vote in this election compared with prior ones.
  • 34 percent of voters said flooding has impacted their daily life "sometimes."
  • 59 percent of voters said the city should fix flooding if it could fund either flooding fixes or completing Interstate 526. 
  • 56 percent of voters said they think the increase in hotels is a "bad thing for the city."

City Councilman Gary White, who is seeking the mayoral seat this fall, said the concerns raised in the poll are consistent with what he's heard from voters. 

"If you attend all the different forums, the candidates sound exactly the same because the issues are the issues. There's not anything different about that, it's how you got about fixing it," White said. "The question for voters on Nov. 5 is, 'Who do they believe as a leader? Who has the best ability to actually do something about those issues?' "

Though the polling data shows that 56 percent view more hotel development in Charleston as a "bad thing" for the city, White said he doesn't think that necessarily means voters are anti-hotel but believe the city has "enough supply for what we need." 

City Councilman Mike Seekings, who also is running for mayor, said he thinks voters picked flooding as a higher-priority than completion of Interstate 526 because they "now understand that water poses a threat to all sorts of things, including infrastructure." 

Eight years ago, Seekings said, the I-526 extension would have been the clear answer but growth across the city the past five years has changed residents' perspectives. 

"People don't want studies, they want something done," Seekings said. 

Incumbent Mayor John Tecklenburg said he sees a strong relationship between the top issues on voters' minds and his priorities this year. 

"I feel this is a confirmation of the issues that the city has identified — that I've listened to and identified — and are in fact what we're working on and continue to work on and make progress on," Tecklenburg said. "Our priorities are protecting the city from the impact of flooding and sea level rise and enhancing our transportation infrastructure and increasing the supply on affordable housing." 

Tecklenburg said he sees the 526/flooding situation as something that shouldn't be mutually exclusive: "Protecting the city and citizens from flooding and the completion of 526 are possible," he said.

Former City Councilman Maurice Washington and newcomers Sheri Irwin and Renee Orth also are in the race. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote on Nov. 5, the top two vote-getters will meet in a Nov. 22 runoff.

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Reach Mikaela Porter at 843-937-5906. Follow her on Twitter @mikaelaporterPC. 

Mikaela Porter joined The Post and Courier in April 2019 and writes about the city of Charleston. Previously, Mikaela reported on breaking news, local government, school issues and community happenings for The Hartford Courant in Hartford, Conn.